Transfer students moved from one college to another in the U.S. a whopping 2.4 million times from 2008 to 2014, according to a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse. Amazingly, almost half of those transfers where done by students who were changing colleges for a second or third time. Picking a college to transfer to is, apparently, just as problematic as choosing a first school for many students.
If you’re not happy with the college you’re in and are thinking of becoming a transfer student, here are some tips to have more success on your second try at picking a school.
- Look for a “transfer friendly” school.
Some schools have far more open policies on accepting credit for the courses you’ve already taken than others. You want to make sure that you get as much credit as possible for the work you’ve already done, as it will keep your total cost of school down and shorten the time it takes to complete your degree. Find out if a school you’re considering as an official transfer coordinator, or a counselor who is very familiar with transfer issues. Transfer policies differ a great deal from one school to the next, and can involve some real complexity, particularly if you are changing majors.
- Make a final decision on your major
If you don’t know what you want to study after a year in college, you might want to consider working for a year or two rather than jumping into a new school. Continuing to study without a clear focus can leave you looking to make yet another transfer down the line. And since almost no school will accept 100% of the possible transfer credits you have, changing schools again and again can become very expensive and time consuming. Making a solid decision on your major is also important because it should help you determine which school you want to transfer to. If you want to go into business, you should obviously be looking for good business schools.
- Don’t apply too late
Although many online schools have rolling admissions that go throughout the year, many other colleges still work on a September / January semester schedule. It’s actually a good idea to contact any school you’re interested in a year or more in advance of transferring, as it will give you time to work through any logistical problems you may have with the transfer, and insure that the courses you want to take will be available in the particular semester you start in.
- Get your FAFSA done early
You can apply for aid starting on January 1st of the year you intend to transfer in, and you don’t have to have your taxes done by the time you apply. Also, you can enter up to 10 possible college choices when you fill out the form. You will then get an award letter from each college you have been accepted at and put in your FAFSA application, which will tell you where you should go to get the most financial aid.
- Be aware of military transfer benefits
If you’re a veteran or active duty, you may be able to roll credits from multiple schools up into a degree from one particular school. You may still have to have some credits evaluated for approval from the school that grants your degree, but you are likely to find more options for using several schools to get one degree than non-military folks.
- Finally, don’t underestimate the transition
You should expect that some things will be different when you transfer to a new college or university, and that it will take some time for you to get comfortable with the differences. Also, don’t assume that the challenges you found at your first school will automatically vanish. If you cut classes or found it hard to complete work because of your work or family obligations (a common problem with adult online students) you’ll need to be better organized if you want to be more successful the second time around. Also, don’t try to go it alone. Before you start school, try to find out as much as you can about how to get help outside of class from professors, counselors and other students. There are more and more options emerging with online forums and study groups that can help you get the aid and backup you need to be a successful transfer student.